As Just Pro Cycling enters its fourth year, there are certain things I can’t bring myself to write about anymore. The cycling season throws up a few predictable outcomes every year: Alejandro Valverde will reign over the Mur de Huy, Peter Sagan will pile up stage wins and the Vuelta will have a ridiculous amount of summit finishes. I also have several personal favourite topics which I feel I’ve squeezed all that’s worth saying from over the last few years. Here are eight things I won’t be writing about in 2018.
How good Peter Sagan is…
This one’s an obvious inclusion and a promise that will be hard to keep. As well as being the best cyclist in the world, Sagan is arguably the most entertaining and – when he isn’t ramming Mark Cavendish into the barriers – probably the most popular. Nevertheless, I’ve written about his stunning Richmond win, the Doha double and the Bergen hat trick, plus countless other predictions and his surprising switch to Bora at the end of 2016. I’m done with it all. There are only so many times you can say ‘Slovakian superstar’.
I was growing tired of the certainty behind the words of the Chris Froome hate mob towards the end of the year… and then I opened the 13th door of my advent calendar and found his highly illegal salbutamol level. Despite this recent revelation, I think I’ll take a break from writing about Froome. I’d be lying if I said I was an expert on the performance benefits of abusing asthma medication so I think I’ll sit back and absorb the theories. Unless the Team Sky soap opera takes another Eastenders-Christmas-special-level twist, I’ll be avoiding any more Froome posts.
The route of every World Tour race…
I love a good stage profile. My favourite are probably those bizarre ones with several little shark’s teeth in the final 50km. I love it when they are misleading and the gentle-looking drag at the end actually touches 14% for half a kilometre. I love the return of an old favourite or the inclusion of a new gem of a climb. I love finishes on the coast with winds that will cause havoc. I love it when race organizers visit a cycling-mad town for a stage finish and a big old roundabout causes the Quick-Step sprint train to lose Marcel Kittel. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ll be previewing many stages in 2018. There are plenty of great previews on the internet; you know the ones I mean!
How much I love Dylan Groenewegen…
Isn’t it great when your favourite young rider actually survives the transition to the World Tour and goes on to win on the Champs Elysees (at 11/2, and you’ve got money on him)? I’ve watched Dylan Groenewegen evolve from dominant b-level sprinter to Tour de France stage winner over the last two years and loved every minute of it. I’ve frequently championed him and thrown his name into the hat alongside the likes of Caleb Ewan and Fernando Gaviria. Unfortunately, I feel I’ve finally exhausted my appreciation of the young Dutchman – at least for now. I can’t promise I’ll stick to this one, but they’ll be no ‘Why I Love Dylan Groenewegen’ posts in the next twelve months. Let’s save the next update for 2019 (when he wins the green jersey).
Why I think Diego Ulissi is a ‘good value outsider’ for anything with a short uphill finish…
In my eyes, Diego Ulissi is a future rainbow stripe wearing, Ardennes conquering, Tour de France stage winner. I have fallen into so many traps thinking he will genuinely dance up a hilly finish with a Valverde-like explosion. Unfortunately, the rest of the cycling world seems to have a less rose-tinted view of the lively Italian. I’m calling for a ceasefire this year.
To be fair, Ulissi would win tomorrow
— Just Pro Cycling (@justprocycling) May 10, 2017
Ulissi at 50/1?
Hi Bet365, I’m Mike
— Just Pro Cycling (@justprocycling) October 5, 2017
The best climbers were always going to contest this route. Not sure why I let myself get sucked into the Ulissi hype… again
— Just Pro Cycling (@justprocycling) October 7, 2017
Diego Ulissi is a great talent. Would love him to get going early enough in the season to have a crack at San Remo #Giro
— Just Pro Cycling (@justprocycling) May 18, 2016
How much we miss Alberto Contador…
I felt like I gave Contador a nice send off. Perhaps not the gushing goodbye of a lifelong Contadorian, but I spent enough time watching YouTube clips to remind me just how brilliant he was. The way he rode his last Vuelta was superb and I cheered him all the way up l’Angliru. Nevertheless, I won’t be peppering my posts with Contador references or bemoaning his absence from the Grand Tours. He picked the perfect time to retire and it was a succession of dwindling performances which made his late resurgence at the Vuelta such a pleasant surprise. He’ll be sorely missed, but I’m hoping to see his approach to racing live on in the current peloton.
Richie Porte’s performance on Willunga Hill…
Things always begin with the Tour Down Under. Predictably, this means I’ll get excited and launch myself into a comprehensive look at race. Also predictably, I’ll find myself writing about Willunga Hill and how Richie Porte will look to use his dominance on the climb to wrestle the ochre jersey from a wily puncheur. Willunga marks the return of riders racing upwards and it happens to be one of my favourite stages of the season. Nevertheless, I think I’ll stop myself from overanalysing Porte’s performance on Old Willunga this year. It’s a long season.
Nacer Bouhanni’s chances of winning a stage of the Tour…
I really thought he would. Now I’m sure he won’t.
Pause the video below at 0:59 to see the exact moment Bouhanni realised how many riders are probably quicker than him.